Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Pinkerton Josephson loves to dig into the past. She believes that behind every person, every relationship, there lies a story. Her award-winning biographies, history books, and picture books include fiction and nonfiction for children.  She has also written for adults. In this column, she blogs about the reissue of her biography of detective Allan Pinkerton as an ebook.

Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye

More than one hundred fifty years ago, when the Midwest was still young and rugged, a tough, burly Scottish immigrant named Allan Pinkerton founded the first detective agency in America. The Pinkerton Detective Agency vowed to catch criminals, recover stolen property, gather information, and investigate fraud. The agency’s motto was “We Never Sleep,” its logo a wide-open eye.

When I was a child, friends asked me if my family was related to this famous detective. That sounded exciting, but we were not relatives. Still my curiosity led me to write a biography of him, now newly reissued as an ebook. My research for the print book from Lerner Publications took me to Van Nuys, California, then the headquarters of the modern agency. I spent the day there poring over stacks of documents, letters, and photos. The methods Pinkerton used were simple, but in 1850, they broke new ground. Facts and codes were recorded in small black notebooks. His agents worked undercover, sometimes in disguises their own mothers wouldn’t recognize. I held Pinkerton’s codebook in my hands, gazed at the memorabilia in glass cases, and marveled at the massive Diebold safe that stood in the lobby. Much of what I saw came from a time when there were no armored trucks, no huge bank vaults, no safe places to keep money, no computers! A time when the first Pinkerton operatives chased railroad and bank robbers by train, horseback, or on foot.

SB_Allan Pinkerton_v3In the revised and updated ebook, I give details about how Pinkerton got into detective work, his work on the Underground Railroad, the famous outlaws and bandits he chased, such as the Jesse James and Reno gangs, and the formation of the first female detective department within his agency. Because of his friendship with Abraham Lincoln, Pinkerton and his agents protected Lincoln on the way to his first inauguration. I also wrote about Pinkerton the man—his habits, challenges, and his penchant for practical jokes, such as upending a fishing boat filled with his guests at his Illinois estate, the Larches.

The research for this book fascinated me. After the print book was published, public interest went beyond my target audience to older students and adults.  This enabled me to appear on the A & E Biography and Discovery television programs. (My fifteen minutes of fame!) View clips of those appearances on YouTube: Judith Pinkerton Josephson, Author.

The Pinkerton Detective Agency made history. Its story began with a maverick Scotsman who helped shape the meaning of the word “detective” for decades to come. Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the modern agency is in full swing today. The Library of Congress now houses Allan Pinkerton’s hundreds of letters, records, and photos. The words in these archives bring to life one of the most colorful men of the 19th century.

Check out the ebook on Amazon at  Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye (for readers middle grade and up, plus older readers)

Visit me at www.judithjosephson.com, and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(The agency is now located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.)— I pored over stacks of documents and actually held Pinkerton’s code book in my hand.

 

Today in the United States and other countries, a myriad of law enforcement and surveillance agencies exist. But it wasn’t always so. He didn’t start out to be a detective.  As a young man back in Scotland in the 1830s, he was part of a resistance movement called the Chartists fighting against British control over working people’s lives.  “I wasn’t on the side of the law then.”

When authorities put a price on Pinkerton’s head, he left Scotland for America with his young bride Joan. Back then, he was a cooper, a maker of barrels to hold grains, beef, beer, wine, and other goods. But in Dundee, Illinois, when he cracked a counterfeit ring making phony money, the local sheriff started asked him to solve other crimes. At the same time, Allan and Joan began operating as a safe house for runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. Because he believed slavery was wrong, he justified breaking the law.

After Allan and his family moved to the fast-growing city of Chicago, he became its first private detective, a move that led to his founding his own agency in 1850. At that time, few detective agencies existed in the United States. Pinkerton decided Pinkerton’s central office looked like a backstage theater wardrobe room. Big trunks held hats, boots, suits, and other clothing. On a specific case, a detective might have to act the part of a bartender, a horse car conductor, a watchmaker, or a gambler. His agents were called operatives and each had a code name. Soon railroads began hiring him and his agents to catch train bandits; banks asked him to tackle gangs of bank robbers.

 

Because of Allan Pinkerton’s friendship with Abraham Lincoln,. Because of the initial publication of this biography, I had the opportunity to appear on the A & E Biography and Discovery programs on television.

 

The Pinkertons made history. Their story began with a maverick Scotsman who founded the first detective bureau in the United States and helped shape the meaning of the word “detective” for decades to come. The Library of Congress now houses Allan Pinkerton’s hundreds of letters, records, and photos.

The words in these archives and Allan Pinkerton’s legacy bring to life one of the most colorful men of the nineteenth century.

Check out the ebook at : (add bitly link)

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Mother Jones: Mother to America’s Workers

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Josephson loves to dig into the past. People’s lives, especially that of people who have made a difference. Today she reflects on the life and accomplishments of Mary Harris Jones that she researched for her updated ebook: Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights. Her award-winning biographies and history books include both nonfiction and fiction for children. She has also written for adults.

 

MotherJones Cover Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, as well as those who mother and mentor young people—aunts, grandmothers, friends, teachers, youth leaders, coaches! One Mother’s Day, my daughter gave me a paperback book, Important Women of the Twentieth Century. It held a section on Mother Jones, a.k.a. Mary Harris Jones, which inspired me to write one of my most intriguing biographies for young people. For the next several months, Mother Jones figuratively stomped around my office in her long black dress, hat, and boots, looking over my shoulder to make sure I captured her spirit and tenacity.

Mary Harris Jones’s path in her early life was seared by tragedy. In Memphis, Tennessee, after the Civil War ended, she watched helplessly as her husband and four children all died of yellow fever. Out of the ashes of those sorrows, a fierce compassion for the downtrodden grew.

 

Workers Became Her Family

Mary took up the cause of American workers, adopting them as her family. Workers—adults and many children—who toiled away in coal mines, textile mills, and other industries, often labored for long hours under dangerous conditions for wages that barely sustained them. She hiked up mountains just so she could talk with miners. She spoke to crowds using peppery language and a folksy tone, “Listen boys . . . let me tell you.” “I reside wherever there is a good fight against wrong—all over the country. . . . Wherever the workers are fighting the robbers, I go there.” Mary Harris Jones became known as simply Mother Jones.

She stood on picket lines with mothers, whose young boys toiled twelve hours a day underground as mule tenders or breaker boys. Of young girls working in cotton mills, she said, “I’ve got stock in these little children.” In the March of the Mill Children, she took three hundred men, women, and children to speak with then-president Teddy Roosevelt and to plead the case against child workers. Unintimidated by railroad barons, mine and mill owners, governors, even presidents, Mother Jones had a simple message—rights for workers.

For sixty years, Mother Jones’s mission took her from the poorest coal miner’s shack to the halls of Congress, from the ragged children in the textile mills to bottle washers in Milwaukee breweries.

 

Activist to the End

Toward the end of her life, she received a telegram: “MOTHER THERE IS A STRIKE AT THE SILK MILLS HERE   WILL YOU COME AT ONCE   I KNOW YOU CAN DO LOTS OF GOOD   COME IF POSSIBLE    FROM A MINER.”

One of her last wishes was that she could “live another hundred years in order to fight to the end that there would be no more machine guns and no more sobbing of little children.” Her feisty, unyielding determination makes her one of American labor’s most unforgettable champions.

Mother Jones—her indomitable spirit, stirring words, and bold actions— is a role model for young people to emulate today. Filled with thought-provoking photographs, my ebook, Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights, is appropriate for readers from sixth grade on up, but it also holds inspiration for adults as well.  Contact me at www.judithjosephson.com.

What to Consider When Writing a Series: Part 1

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

L.C. Scott founded eFrog Press in 2011. She has a B.A. in English from UC Berkeley, an M.A. in Education from Stanford, and a doctorate in educational leadership from UC San Diego. During her freelance writing career she wrote dozens of magazine feature stories, chapters for textbooks, study guides for educations films and newsletters. For many years she created websites for small businesses and children’s authors. She has taught at the high school and university levels. Hershey: A Second Chance is her chapter book for struggling readers about a mischievous rescue Doberman and a young boy who loves him. Today she shares Part 1 of lessons learned when creating a book series.


Planning is Key

Some additional planning is needed when you are writing a series. At eFrog Press we have worked on series for children and for adults. Today we will share how authors came up with their series titles, series logos, and cover design.

Series Title is a Serious Decision

Creating the title of a series is a great opportunity to use key words to help readers find your books. Many authors do not start to make a profit until the second or even third book in their series is published.

The first series we worked on in 2011 was a collection of biographies for young readers about people who have made a difference in the world. We considered calling the series “Lives of Famous People” but these biographies were about people who were more than just famous—they had made an impact. People like Barbara McClintock, a geneticist and the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize on her own, were featured. And Jesse Owens whose impact is still being felt and whose life will be featured in a new movie RACE starring Stephan James, Jeremy Irons, Jason Sudeikis and directed by Stephen Hopkins, in theaters February 19, 2016.

So the authors of the different titles in this series chose A Spotlight Biography because these well researched books focused a light on interesting people who had left their mark. The next decision was how the series title would appear on each book cover. We wanted to use some kind of spotlight.

Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist   Barbara McClintock

Our first version is the blue cover with a spotlight coming down from the top. But then one of our cover designers came up with a beautiful modern cover with the spotlight over the top right corner. Now we have a nice template for all future titles in the series and the current titles look related.

Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist cover  MotherJonesCover1  EastmanCover_200wide

Learn more about other books in A Spotlight Biography series for young readers.

 

Planning a New Historical Fiction Series

When we began working with retired professor and academic research librarian Richard Fitchen, he was planning a five-book fiction series about the history of the United States. He wanted a series title that reflected both the depth and breadth of these stories. After much thought, he named his series An American Saga. He loves history and political science and wanted to use story to engage readers and educate them at the same time.

The series title was actually easier to create than the series logo. The designer came up with many versions but all had an American flag. Since the books spanned centuries, the American flag changed in appearance—more stars and stripes over time. The author wanted a flag to span our country’s history, so he requested a furled flag so the number of stars was less clear.

An American Saga Series Logo

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New Biography of Mother Jones: Feisty Fighter for Workers’ Rights

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Pinkerton Josephson has taught at various grade levels, and has written books for children—biographies, picture books, and childhood history books—and co-written two zany grammar guides for adults. She believes that behind every person and every relationship, there lies a story. Capturing the essence of that story in the space and time it took place makes writing fascinating. Visit her website for more information.

 

MotherJonesCover1As I was writing my biography of Mary Harris Jones, a.k.a. Mother Jones, I visualized her stomping around my office in her long black dress, hat, and boots, looking over my shoulder to make sure I captured her spirit and tenacity. Every once in a while, her words would hover in the air: “Get it right. I’m not a humanitarian. I’m a hell raiser.” “I was born in revolution.” “I reside wherever there is a good fight against wrong—all over the country. . . . Wherever the workers are fighting the robbers, I go there.” “Women can do so much if they only realize their power. . . . Nobody wants a lady. They want women.”

Childhood in Ireland

As a child in Ireland in the 1830s, Mary witnessed deadly clashes between British soldiers and peasant farmers, including members of her own family. After immigrating to the United States, she did well in school, becoming the first in her family to graduate from high school. Along the way, she acquired skills that would serve her well— teaching, dressmaking, giving speeches, and debating.

Family Tragedy

But Mary’s path in life was not to be an easy one. In Memphis, Tennessee, after the Civil War ended, she watched helplessly as her ironworker husband and four children all died of yellow fever. Out of the ashes of those sorrows, a fierce compassion for the downtrodden grew.

Champion for Workers’ Rights

Figure17b

In narrow tunnels alongside underground ribbons of coal, boys tended the mules that pulled coal carts.

Mary took up the cause of American workers, adopting them as her family. Workers—adults and many children—who toiled away in coal mines, textile mills, and other industries, often labored for long hours under dangerous conditions for wages that could barely sustain them. She hiked up mountains wearing hip boots and her trademark long, black dresses, just so she could talk with miners. She spoke to crowds using peppery language and a folksy tone, “Listen boys . . . let me tell you.” She stood on picket lines with mothers, whose young boys toiled twelve hours a day underground as mule tenders or breaker boys. Of young girls working in cotton mills, she said, “I’ve got stock in these little children.” In the March of the Mill Children, she took three hundred men, women, and children to speak with then-president Teddy Roosevelt and to plead the case against child workers.

Figure35_med

“I’ve got stock in these little children,” Mother Jones said of young mill workers like these girls.

Unintimidated by railroad barons, mine and mill owners, governors, even presidents of the United States, she brought a simple message to all, rights for workers.  From that moment on, Mary Harris Jones became known, beloved, and called, simply Mother Jones.

For sixty years, Mother Jones crisscrossed the nation, urging men, women, and child workers to fight for their rights through labor unions. Her mission took her from the poorest coal miner’s shack to the halls of Congress, from the ragged children in the textile mills all the way to presidents of the United States.

A Long Life

Mother Jones always went “wherever the fight was the fiercest.” One of her last wishes was that she could “live another hundred years in order to fight to the end that there would be no more machine guns and no more sobbing of little children.” Mother Jones’s feisty and unyielding determination make her one of American labor’s most unforgettable champions.

Mother Jones—her indomitable spirit, stirring words, and bold actions— is a role model for young people to emulate today. Filled with thought-provoking photographs, this biography is appropriate for readers from sixth grade on up, but it also holds inspiration for adults as well.

Note: Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights is part of A Spotlight Biography series for young people and is available as an ebook for only $1.99 through October 31.

Writing Biography for Young People

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Edith Hope Fine

Paulsen and McClintock: So Different, So Alike

My two Spotlight Biography subjects—Barbara McClintock and Gary Paulsen—bring to mind Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to reach expertise in a field. Think Yo-Yo Ma and his cello, for example—there’s a guy for whom practice was a joy.

In her eighties, geneticist McClintock was still working twelve hours a day in her lab. And famed children’s writer Gary Paulsen says “I’m totally, viciously, obsessively committed to work, . . . I still work that way, completely, all the time. I just work.”

 

Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist

Barbara McClintockFor the McClintock biography, I visited the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, across from the Liberty Bell. Imagine the experience of heading into the archives with nothing but a pencil, pad, and piece of Kleenex! Imagine holding old family photos, awards, and honorary degrees. If all seventy feet of her records, including detailed 3 x 5 cards, were put into a single file drawer, it would be two school buses long.

Before the 1950s, scientists thought that genes had set positions on chromosomes. Working solo, McClintock studied maize (Indian corn) and made the startling discovery that genes are mobile and some actually control other genes. The press dubbed them “jumping genes.” That was huge, and just one of her major discoveries that changed the world of genetics.

At Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island, her research home for forty decades, I met with colleagues and others. Helpful geneticists checked to ensure that my simplification of her complex findings was clear and accurate for young readers. What fun digging out details like her favorite color to paint a picture of this charming genius: “She loved the color red. Red canisters, dish rack and drain board, bowls, dishes, and breadbox brightened her kitchen. Her sugar scoop and other utensils had bright red handles.”

In 1983, at eighty-one, she received a Nobel Prize, the first woman ever to receive an unshared Nobel in Physiology or Medicine.  A set of Nobel stamps came out celebrating discoveries in genetics. “As far as portraits go, I share honors with the fruit fly,” McClintock observed wryly.

This book took two years to write, but all that research paid off. One reviewer wrote, “This is what every good biography should be.”

 

Gary Paulsen: Adventurer and Author

Author Gary Paulsen works magic with words. His more than 200 books turn students into eager readers. Millions of copies of Hatchet have sold. This award-winning tale of a city boy trying to survive along in the wilderness after a plane crash has been translated into more than fifteen languages.

For this biography, I read as many Paulsen books as I could get my hands on. The tone varies widely. Some are laugh-aloud funny. Some, particularly his Civil War books, are so poignant, they bring tears. His range is wide. Picture books are beautifully illustrated by his wife Ruth Wright Paulsen. His adventure books are designed to pull readers in, to “thoughty” (my mum’s word) young adult books for which he was honored with a Margaret A. Edwards Award. His adult Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass, is an elegy to farm life—my book group gave it a ten!

From childhood on, Paulsen’s mind worked like a recorder, storing away things he saw, heard, and felt. And he remembered. Deep in his mind, he tucked away details. There were the hard parts—his rough home life with alcoholic parents, bullies who taunted him, and school troubles. There were the good parts—kind adults, amazing adventures, a growing love of nature. And dogs—a lifetime of dogs that became his friends.

Can you imagine running a dogsled solo in the wilderness for even a day? Paulsen has run the Iditarod, the grueling 1,049-mile Alaskan dogsled race two times. If he’s thrown a stick at a bear, nearly drowned in an icy pond, survived a violent Pacific storm in a twenty-two foot sailboat, been hit by a seagull while riding a Harley, broken bones, gotten lost in a snowstorm, been blown off a mountain, chased by a moose, or caught in a flash flood, Gary Paulsen has written about it, opening the doors to books and reading to millions.

Although their fields are wildly different, both McClintock and Paulsen demonstrate how taking joy in one’s work can move the world forward in remarkable ways. I’m glad to have these two books available to young readers as ebooks through eFrog Press.

So You Want to Write for Children . . .

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

Edith Hope FineOne of our favorite books we have worked on is Jump, Froggies! Writing Children’s Books: 89+ Beginners’ Tips by Edith Hope Fine. We asked her to blog about her book (available in print and as an ebook) because it is a treasure trove for new authors. Her years of experience in a variety of genres are shared generously so newbies can learn from a veteran. Edith Hope Fine is an award-winning children’s writer with eighteen books. She runs the published members’ group of the San Diego chapter of SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), a non-profit organization that offers support to beginners and pros alike.

 

 

Jump, Froggies! CoverHow many times while reading to kids have you thought, “I could do this—I could write a children’s book”? If you love playing with words, still relish memories of books from childhood, read widely, and are open to hard work, you could be right.

Do you know the joke about the frogs? Five froggies sit on a log. One decides to jump. How many are left on the log? Five, because deciding isn’t doing.

It’s one thing to think about writing articles, stories, or books for children and quite another to do it. Accumulating the knowledge and skills you’ll need is a process.

You do need to know today’s books. If you’re aiming for the young adult (YA) market, read in that genre. Study the riveting The Maze Runner to discover how author James Dashner built a unique, surprising world where teens must unlock a secret, but the rules change every day. Tune into today’s important thrust toward diverse books so that all young readers can find themselves in books. (Check out the “We Need Diverse Books” website—the front page says it all: http://weneeddiversebooks.org/  and #weneeddiversebooks.)

Where to Start?

If you find figuring out where to start seems dizzying, take a look at my new Jump, Froggies! Writing Children’s Books: 89+ Beginners’ Tips (eBook or paperback) to take you on a step-by-step journey through the world of children’s publishing.

Here’s a quick dip into the Table of Contents—just six of the many topics covered:

• Learn from What You Read

• Your Space, Your Schedule, Your Tools

• Quick Tips: Honing Your Skills

• Revision

• THE Call—“We want your book!”

• To Market, To Market . . .

Three Beginners’ Tips: Contests, Digging In, No Art!

First, hone and polish your work, then enter contests. Lee & Low Books, known for its award-winning multicultural books, nurtures new writers. Writers of color should check out their New Voices Award and New Visions Award. (The deadline is Sept. 30 for the former, Oct. 31 for the latter.)

Second, read, read, read.  Dig into the sorts of books you want to write—nonfiction? middle grade mystery? dark YA (young adult)? Study what draws you in. Check out specifics such as structure, characters, tension, foreshadowing.

Third, if you’re goal is to write a picture book, don’t send art—that’s not your job. Seriously.

Persist

You may try your hand at picture books (easier said than done) or focus on middle school humor. You may, like me, hop across age levels and try your hand at both fiction and nonfiction. There’s no one right way. The trick is finding what works for you.

You’ll take classes. You’ll practice. You’ll accumulate rejections. You’ll keep on.

One thing’s certain. If you persist, your writing will become stronger and stronger and you’ll have a real chance to make that dream of holding in your hands a children’s book with your name on the cover.

Two words, my friends: Jump, froggies!

Give the Gift of Reading: Our Recommendations for Ebooks for Children

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

As a former teacher, I can think of no better gift for children than books. If you want to encourage reading, help kids see how special books are. Need some last-minute suggestions? Ebooks are the way to go! Here are some of eFrog Press’s recent titles that would make great presents for the children in your life.

 

Children’s Fiction

Smoky: The Cowhorse by Will James
Western adventure about a horse by Will JamesThis children’s classic, and winner of the 1927 Newbery Medal for children’s literature, is the unforgettable story of a horse—from his first hours on the prairie sod to his final years out to pasture. Smoky grows up wild, strong, and wise to the ways of the range, fighting wolves and braving stiff winds. Clint, a bronco-busting cowboy on the Rocking R Ranch, thinks the spirited animal is the finest little horse he ever saw. After many adventurous years with Clint on the Rocking R, Smoky mysteriously disappears, only to turn up later as an outlaw bucking horse on the rodeo circuit.

“There have been many horse stories. But not one of them can compare with this book.”
New York Times Book Review

Available as an ebook

 

Young Adult Fiction

Shenandoah: Daughter of the Stars by Nancy Johnson

YA Civil War story featuring strong female characterDuring the turbulent years of the Civil War, three young people struggle to follow their dreams as the war devastates their homeland and their way of life in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in this final installment of Johnson’s Civil War trilogy.

Hannah Yeager works hard on her family’s farm and teaches in a nearby school, while remaining loyal to the Union. Secretly, her fourteen-year-old heart  dreams of true love. What she finds is a handsome Confederate colonel. Hannah’s thirteen-year-old brother, Willy, is spirited and headstrong. He rebels against his family’s values and seeks adventure by joining an outlaw raider band, terrorizing the Union Army.

“This story will appeal to young and old alike, especially fans of Civil War fiction. While this book is the third in a series it can easily be read as a stand alone…. A great Civil War fiction tale that allows readers to step into the lives of three unique characters!” — Readers’ Favorite

Available in print and ebook format.

 

 

The Way of the Wilderness by Jess Walker

The Way of the WildernessSam West thought he knew what it was like to feel alone in the world. He has been abandoned by his mother, neglected by his alcoholic father, and ignored by every foster parent he was sent to. At fifteen, Sam decides to find his mother in search of a future with the woman he barely remembers. But when his bush plane crashes in Northern Ontario, Canada, a vast expanse of untamed wilderness, Sam is the sole survivor and utterly alone.

Determined to live and somehow make it back to civilization, Sam uses every ounce of knowledge to fight the elements, the treacherous predators, and most of all, to keep his head in the game of survival. After a near-death encounter with a bear shakes him to his core, the appearance of a mysterious mountain man surprises him the most. Together, they embark upon a long journey to find the world again, a world that will be forever different to these two survivors. But Sam also finds something he never thought possible; he finds the friendship and the love he always wanted, forged in the solitary landscape of the wilderness.

Available in print and ebook format.

 

Nonfiction for Children

The Spotlight Biography Series focuses on real lives of inspirational people, and is perfect for introducing kids to nonfiction. Here are three titles now available as ebooks for the first time.

Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist by Lynda Plueger

Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist coverThomas Nast became a voice of justice through his political cartoons. He became famous for his depictions of the Civil War, his political party illustrations, and for his help in developing the now-popular image of jolly old Saint Nick. But his biggest battle came in his own hometown, where he decided to go up against William “Boss” Tweed and his Tammany Hall collaborators—the notoriously crooked leaders of New York City, bribing and laundering money into their own overstuffed pockets. Nast was never intimidated by threats and he never backed down, even when his life was threatened. Through his political cartoons he made a difference, and helped bring the Tweed Ring to justice. Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist illustrates the power of art and conviction and the journey of this American icon.

Available as an ebook.

 

Jesse Owens: Legendary Gold Medal Olympian by Judith Pinkerton Josephson

Jesse Owens“I always loved running,” said track-and-field legend Jesse Owens, who as a boy could outrun all his playmates. That blazing speed helped Owens set track records in junior high, high school, and on into college at Ohio State University. At one Big Ten meet, he smashed three world records and tied a fourth in 45 minutes. By the time Owens competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, people used words like “express” and “comet” to describe him. Germany’s leader, Adolf Hitler, and his Nazi party believed that Jews, African-Americans, and other groups were inferior beings. Jesse Owens proved them wrong by winning four gold medals.

This previously published biography contains updates, revisions, a new cover and photos, and hyperlinks to educational websites. Jesse Owens succeeded in spite of racism, poverty, and other obstacles. He met these issues with strength, perseverance, and grace. A man of determination and courage, he rose above the bigotry of the era to become a consummate athlete, humanitarian, friend and role model for young people, and an athletic ambassador.

Available as an ebook.

 

Gary Paulsen: Adventurer and Author by Edith Hope Fine

Gary PaulsenWith more than two hundred books to his credit, Gary Paulsen is fast becoming an American legend. A popular children’s author, Paulsen draws on life experiences to write mystery, memoir, adventure, humor, and survival, including the best-selling Hatchet. He has run the Iditarod, survived violent sea storms, picked crops, worked at carnivals, been blown off a mountain, plunged through lake ice in the dead of winter, and had his pants catch fire while training his dogs. The result is books people love to read.

Against all odds, Gary Paulsen has become a popular, prolific children’s writer. Mystery, memoir, adventure, survival, and humor—he’s done them all. Paulsen draws on life experiences to create books young people love to read. Kids who love his books will be fascinated by Paulsen’s life story.

Available as an ebook.

 

 Gift Suggestions

What children’s books do you love to gift?

Author of Thomas Nast Shares Her Publishing Journey from Traditional to Indie

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Lynda Pfleuger, authorLynda Pflueger has written nine biographies for children.  Her books have been favorably reviewed by Kirkus, School and Library Journal, and Booklist. Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist is the fourth book in the Spotlight Biography Series.


 

One day, while researching an article on collecting, a book fell from the shelf above me and hit me on the head. I rubbed my head for a few seconds and then reached down and picked up the book.  It was about a man who collected political cartoons. His favorite cartoonist was Thomas Nast.

I’m a history buff, particular US history. I love visiting museums and libraries. Nothing pleases me more than to roam around dusty old archives and find newspaper articles or photographs I can use in my books. Sometimes my discoveries come from unusual places and surprise me.

Boss Tweed with money bag for a head to show his greedI was intrigued by Nast’s story. After the Civil War, with only his pen as a weapon, he helped bring down a notoriously corrupt group of politicians called the Tweed Ring in New York City. Nast continually harassed the ring with his drawings and often focused his attention on William M. Tweed, the leader of the ring. In one drawing entitled “Brains Nast drew Tweed dressed in a three-piece business suit and replaced his head with a money bag to signify the money he had stolen from the city.

 

Santa Claus by Thomas NastI also fell in love with Nast’s drawings of Santa Claus inspired by Clement Moore’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Nast portrayed Santa Claus as a jolly old fellow with a white beard and round belly.

 

Then I came across one of Nast’s drawings entitled Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner and I knew I had to write about him. In the drawing Uncle Sam is carving a turkey, next to him is Columbia, and sitting around the table are Americans from around the world:  Germany, France, Britain, Africa, China, Italy, Spain, and Ireland. At the bottom of the drawing on the left side Nast wrote, “Come One Come All,” and on the right side, “Free and Equal.”

 Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving

 

I started collecting all the books and magazine articles I could find about Thomas Nast. I traveled to Morristown, New Jersey, where he lived with his family. I spent days at the Morristown and Morris Township Library going through Nast’s scrapbooks, drawings, and other memorabilia. Afterward, I walked across the street to the Macculloch Hall Historical Museum and saw several of Nast’s paintings. I also discovered the Thomas Nast Society and purchased several copies of their journal. Finally, I was ready to sit down and write.

 

Queried Publishers

I completed my first draft and then sent out query letters to six educational publishers. Five months later an editor called. She was impressed with my query letter. Her publishing house was starting a new Historical American Biography Series. She wasn’t interested in a book about Nast at the time; but wondered if I would like to submit a proposal for a biography of someone on their list. She gave me a choice of five people. I chose Stonewall Jackson and within a week I submitted a proposal. Timing was important because they wanted the complete book in four months.

I met my deadline and a year later the first book in the Historical American Biography series, Stonewall Jackson:  Confederate General was published. A few weeks later my editor called with the news that Kirkus had favorably reviewed my book and commented it would find fans with Civil War enthusiasts.

Over the next few years, I wrote several other books for the series. Then one day my editor called and asked if I still wanted to write about Thomas Nast. I enthusiastically responded, “Yes!”

 

Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist Published

Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist coverThe first edition of Thomas Nast: Political Cartoonist was published in 2000. This year, I updated the text, added hyperlinks, more photos and a new cover for an ebook version. For more information about Thomas Nast and upcoming writing projects visit my website at LyndaPflueger.com. The ebook is now available online.

 

Note:  The images used in this blog are from the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, reproduction numbers: LC-USZ62-787, LC-USZ62-42027, and LC-USZ62-85882.

 

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Tell me about your publishing journey. I doubt it started with a book falling on your head, but would love to hear the details.

Today is the Anniversary of the Battle of New Market featured in new YA Novel “Shenandoah”

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Seasoned journalist and food blogger Laura Grouch interviewed author Nancy Johnson about the release of her new YA Civil War novel. To mark the anniversary of the Battle of New Market, Shenandoah, Daughter of the Stars will be a free ebook on Amazon today and tomorrow, May 15 and 16.

 

Even though it took place more than 150 years ago, author Nancy Johnson believes Americans of all ages would benefit from knowing more about the Civil War.

YA Civil War story featuring strong female characterThey especially need to know that young people also gave their lives in the struggle, as shown in her third book, Shenandoah: Daughter of the Stars (ebook $3.99; paperback $9.95). The Battle of New Market, which took place on May 15, 1864, in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, was notable for the participation of nearly 250 military cadetsthe youngest only age 15.

When Johnson was teaching grades four, five and six in California, she realized her students didn’t know much about the great War Between the States. “I wanted to spark an interest in a part of history that I believe is still influencing us today,” she said. “The divisions between North and South, conservative and liberal, black and white, are still an element of life in this country.”

Though she is a native Californian, her own roots reach back to Civil War days. Passed down in her family were letters from relatives, Union Army soldiers, who were in the midst of those battles and who described life during that time.

The Origins of Shenandoah

So when she was looking for a new project, her husband suggested, “Why don’t you go write a book?” Johnson decided to make use of her family history and do just that.

Her first young adult novel, My Brother’s Keeper, was set in the thick of the Civil War, from Northern Virginia to Gettysburg and back to Appomattox, drawing on a rich vein of family history and mementos.

She followed it up with A Sweet-Sounding Place, about Moses, a black youth from Massachusetts who encounters a runaway slave named Samantha.

Now comes the third in the trilogy, “Shenandoah: Daughter of the Stars,” which describes events from the viewpoint of Hannah, a Southern girl who nonetheless believes slavery is a great moral wrong.

Inspired by a visit to the Virginia Military Institute, Johnson weaves a battle fought by its young cadets alongside the Confederate Army into the story. The Battle of New Market was a victory for the Confederate Army. General John Breckinridge called on VMI’s cadets to fight Union soldiers. Forty-seven cadets were wounded, and 10 later died of their injuries. One of the characters in “Shenandoah,” Charlie, is a VMI cadet who is wounded in the battle.

“While doing research for the second book, we went to the Shenandoah Valley, and happened to be there on the day the Virginia Military Institute cadets did their re-enactment of the battle,” Johnson recalled. “Right then, I knew this would be the beginning of my third book.”

A Strong Heroine

Although most books about the Civil War have young male heroes, Johnson said, she wanted to tell this story from Hannah’s point of view.” She was just one of three characters at first. But girls need to know they had a part to play, too,” she said. (more…)

Jesse Owens: Legendary Olympian

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

JudithJosephsonJudith Josephson loves to dig into the past and is fascinated by people’s lives. A former teacher, Judith Josephson has written stories, columns, and articles for children. Her award-winning biographies and history books include both nonfiction and fiction for children. Jesse Owens: Legendary Olympian is her most recent title.

In February, we celebrated African Americans. In addition, all eyes were trained on Sochi, Russia, where the Winter Olympics took place. Each day’s sports coverage featured athletes in blazingly colorful athletic outfits. Results of each competition were instantly photographed, tweeted, emailed, and recorded in real time on television. For more than a century, the Olympics, summer and winter, have represented the greatest athletic competition in the world, an event where months and years of training culminate in the best of the best, producing surprises, disappointments, and heroes.

1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin

Jesse OwensAt a very different Olympics seventy-seven years ago, the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, African American track and field star Jesse Owens won four gold medals, surprising the world and infuriating Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler, who called Owens and other African American teammates America’s “black legions.” Hitler’s close associate declared Jesse and his teammates unfit to compete with “human” athletes, akin to allowing a gazelle or a deer on the team.

Today’s Olympics are different in many ways, but similar in others. Olympic athletes have always trained hard to reach this pinnacle of sports. Jesse Owens had grown up in poverty, but had been training for this day since junior high and high school days, when he started breaking records for his age.  In college at Ohio State University, at a 1935 meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the space of forty-five minutes, he broke four world records.

Politics isn’t supposed to have a role in the Olympics. But in 1936, the Olympics unfolded against Hitler’s evil intents, racism in the U.S. and the gathering storm of World War II.  Since then, issues like the “Cold War,” “Human Rights Violations,”  America’s “Civil Rights Movement,” and “South Africa’s apartheid policies” have caused boycotts and affected outcomes.

Fresh-faced young people have always inspired those who watch the Olympics.  When Jesse Owens won the gold medal in the 100-meter race, he graciously thanked his Olympic hosts, saying that Berlin was “a beautiful place, a beautiful city.  The competition was grand.  But I was very glad to come out on top.”  Proudly, he wore the winner’s laurel wreath and saluted his flag. Jesse Owens had class. Similarly, earlier this year, American luger Kate Hansen, danced for the crowd and in spite of her 10th place finish, said, “I will be thankful for this moment the rest of my life.”

 

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